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An alternative trend

Posted Sep 14 2008 1:27pm

I've been trying to figure out whom to credit -- or alternatively, blame, depending on the situation or my level of anxiety surrounding said situation. You see, I'm not sure how or when it started, really, but when it comes to health care I have found myself trending more toward the "alternative" than the " allopathic." Sometimes its an easy decision, and sometimes it's agonizing, and I find myself alternatively proud or doubting.

It's an easy decision when it's my health. I often find myself doubting when it's a decision about the kids' health, and the more serious the situation, the more agonizing the decision about what to do.

When I became pregnant with my first child, I quickly had to find an alternative way to deal with the pain and inflammation from bursitis. I had been taking prescription-sized doses of ibuprofen all day long every day for years to keep it in check (this was after giving up on cortisone shots, exercise, at least three different methods of physical therapy ...), but ibuprofen and pregnancy don't mix. Three months in I could barely walk, I was in so much pain -- pregnancy hormones were causing my already loose joints to fall further out of alignment, causing more friction on the bursa and, consequently, more inflammation and pain ... -- so my midwife suggested I try acupuncture.

I was skeptical and nervous, but what choice did I have, really? I called the practitioner they suggested, made an appointment and crossed my fingers. "Classic blocked Gallbladder channel," she said after taking a very detailed history, checking my pulse for a few minutes and looking at my tongue. No really, they look at your tongue. See, it sounds weird, but you know what, it totally worked. First a few pain-free days, then it stretched to weeks, then months. I don't care why it worked or that the AMA isn't sold on the benefits of acupuncture; I'm a believer.

[Back to the pregnancy thing... notice I said midwife and not OB. For that I probably have to credit my oldest sister who planned home births, cloth diapered, breastfed longer than most, forewent vaccinations, etc. Her courage and experiences presented me with an alternative to what I likely would have seen otherwise and paved the way for me to question and research and make my own decisions.]

Since that first experience with "alternative therapies," I have expanded my mind and tried many different things. Garlic used to be just a delicious seasoning. If you'd asked me a few years ago while I was cooking up a little pasta sauce what else I'd do with it or where I'd put it, I couldn't have imagined the answers. You're just going to have to go ahead and follow the links to see how to squash Group B Strep and yeast infections.

I used grapefruit seed extract and Gentian Violet to vanquish thrush. I rubbed breast milk into my daughters skin to soothe her eczema, and I've squirted it up my son's nose to help relieve congestion that kept him from being able to nurse. I waved smoking mugwort over my pinky toes to convince #3 to flip into a head-down position in hopes of avoiding an uncomfortable external version at 37 weeks or a C-section if that failed. Worked, worked, worked, and you guessed it, totally worked.

There have been homeopathic treatments for teething pain, echinacea to fight mastitis, rice water for diarrhea ...

Chiropractic is my new "that's quackery"-to- "who cares why it works, it just works" transition. I tried it while pregnant with #3 to help with posterior pelvic pain (read: pain in the ass). Yep, it worked. Then when my son's ears clogged up and wouldn't drain (We're talking a month of doubled-up antihistamines, psuedoephed, and a boy who could not hear. At all.), I had my chiropractor adjust his neck, and wouldn't you know, they drained in two days. When they clogged up again at the beginning of this allergy season, off to the chiropractor we went. And again, the ears drained. This time when the chiropractor suggested a course of eleven visits, I decided to give it a try, much to my son's chagrin. Last year we couldn't visit my in-laws' lake house without taking along allergy meds and two different kinds of inhalers. This year, no inhalers, and no clogged ears.

It's not that I don't think there's a place for allopathic medicine. I go to the doctor and my midwives for check ups and pap smears. And I'm certainly not about to toss out my son's inhalers or my daughter's epipen (she has a cashew allergy). And I still pop the occasional Advil when I get achy. It's just that I find myself turning to and looking for alternative options more and more, and find myself doing a lot of research (and having lots of conversations) before just blindly following my doctors' advice.

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